As soon as I got off the train at the Madrid station, I quickly realized that the sleepy, tranquil side of Spain that I’ve grown used to while living in Andalucía for the past 9 months was far behind us. This is not to say Madrid doesn’t have Spanish charm but rather that, like any major city in the world, it was buzzing with enthralling chaos. My husband and I spent 4 nights in this wonderful place last weekend and over the course of our stay I quickly became entranced by all Madrid has to offer. To write about every little detail from our trip would be a little chaotic in itself so below I shared the most memorable places and moments.
Aloft Madrid Grand Via
When we arrived to our hotel in Madrid, I was expecting a nice, but pretty standard room. However, my husband surprised me with a 10th floor suite that hosted our own private terrace so that skyline views of the city were ours for the entire stay. In Madrid, there are not many skyscrapers so being on the 10th floor allows you to soak in the vast ocean of small, white buildings below with their old-fashioned, terracotta roofs for as far as the eye can see. Getting to see the city from above constantly kind of put me into a thoughtful phase where I reminisced on how grateful I am to be able to experience such a new and exciting place, but also humbled by how small I am in a city so great. A floor above us, the hotel hosts a wonderful rooftop pool and bar with fantastic views of the city as well, so even if you don’t book a terrace room, you can still catch the awesome views over a drink or a quick dip.
The Food & Drinks
Bodegas de los Secretos
I don’t think many people can say that they’ve dined in an underground, 400-year-old wine cellar, so eating at Bodegas de los Secretos was a truly unique experience. Once you head down the steps into the restaurant from the ground floor, you are greeted by rustic, brick-lined passages with tables nestled into the alcoves. Because the restaurant has no windows, the soft lighting available creates a romantic ambiance that’s easy to get lost in while you think about how much history is threaded into these ancient walls. The dinner itself was fantastic. I especially loved the ceviche and Jay loved his steak. Because the restaurant was located in an old wine cellar, an extensive wine list was to be expected and the white wine we chose was so wonderful, that we even decided to get a second bottle. Needless to say, we left the restaurant feeling very satisfied.
Out of all of the food we ate in Madrid, I think my favorite dish was the sea bass from Café Varela, a 100-year-old café that has served an array of famous writers and creatives. This restaurant was conveniently located around the block from our hotel in the bustling city center, so sitting outside was a great option for people watching. I loved checking out the fashion people were sporting and giggling along with those who may have had a little bit too much to drink as we ourselves drank and ate deep into the night. Besides the fantastic sea bass I had, I also greatly enjoyed the scallops and Jay was crazy about his filet. The service was also noteworthy because they were extremely friendly and caring. At the end of our meal, we asked our waiter if he could take a photo and instead of taking a quick shot and rushing off, he took us to several different spots around the restaurant – it almost felt as if we were having a little photo shoot. Both Jay and I found it endearing and we agreed that we will have to come back again next time.
Amargo Place to Be
On Saturday night we decided to venture out aimlessly and see where the night took us. We stumbled upon Amargo Place to Be after strolling for a few blocks and thought, with its open-air plan, that it looked breezy and fun. We were surprised however, when the host took us downstairs into a funky, blacklight basement and even more surprised to find our cocktails served with experimental presentation. My cosmopolitan was served with an air bubble that contained a delicious-smelling vapor when popped and we later shared a huge cocktail that came in a skull-shaped glass that was dramatically scorched with a quick burst of flames by the waiter. One thing I love about city life is that you never know what you might randomly come across.
The Royal Palace of Madrid
Perhaps it’s my ego, but I usually dislike things that make me feel like a peasant and usually try to ignore them. However, it was hard to pretend to be unimpressed at the splendor and richness of the Royal Palace of Madrid. The palace itself is almost daunting due to its sheer size, but the meticulous intricacies and decked-out chambers on the inside are practically mind-blowing. Each and every room we were allowed to tour (which was a lot) was dripping in detailed carvings, priceless artifacts, and wonderful art. The ceilings usually boasted enormous, heavenly paintings or carvings made of porcelain or other expensive materials. Crystal chandeliers, gold trimmings, jewel encrusted crowns, and silver spoons were plentiful here. My husband was really entertained by the armory which has its own museum off to the side of the plaza and showcases years and years of military gear from medieval times.
El Retiro Park
If I lived in Madrid, I could see myself spending a lot of time in El Retiro Park. While Jay and I went with the intention of seeing the Palacio de Cristal, we were surprised to find that the park that hosted it was large and filled to the brim with street performers, people suntanning in grassy patches, large memorials, a pond dotted with row boats, and many attractions. I can best compare it to Central Park in New York City since it too is such a nice place to get away from the hectic streets. We spent a bit of time here viewing the Alfonso XII memorial and the Palacio de Cristal, but were eventually beat out by the heat. I would defiantly recommend this park either early in the morning or later in the evening in the summer because, let’s face it, Spain gets HOT.
El Prado Museum
I am more of a modern art fan, but El Prado Museum defiantly drew me back into my appreciation for the pre-modern periods. I was left mystified while viewing the works of Velázquez, Goya, Caravaggio, and Bosch, just to name a few. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures at this museum so I can’t remember the names of all my favorites, but I did find many paintings absolutely stunning, especially with the way many artists captured light during these periods. I think both my husband and I’s absolute favorite piece was The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. This triptych (three-sectioned painting) is meant to visualize the fate of humanity and is filled with enthralling, surreal details that pop out the longer you view it.
Madrid is a spectacular, inviting city with wonderful discoveries hidden in every corner. The fact that I’m at over 1200 words in this post and still haven’t been able to share all the details of my weekend just goes to show how vast it is. I have plans to return and spend more time here doing even more exploring, so I hope you will follow along.